Tesco to invest £100m in Thailand

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The Independent Online

Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, yesterday revealed plans to spend a further 7bn baht (£102m) on expanding its operations in Thailand.

The supermarket chain, which is in the midst of a five-way tussle to take control of Safeway in the UK, is keen to expand its Thai presence, as well as export more of its local produce to meet demand for Asian foods from UK shoppers.

Part of the 7bn baht investment would go towards developing Thailand as a product source for the entire group. Tesco Lotus, its Thai company, expects to export 3bn baht-worth of Thai products, mostly food, to the UK this year.

Tesco currently has 43 supermarkets and 11 smaller outlets in Thailand, making the country by far its biggest market in Asia. The whole region is a growing area for Tesco, with sales growing 45.5 per cent last year. The group employs 28,000 staff across its stores in Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.

Michael Raycraft, chief executive at Tesco Lotus, yesterday said the retailer, which has already opened two new stores this year, would open another seven by the end of the year and about six new outlets per year over the next three years.

Tesco has invested 45.5bn baht in Thailand since 1998 when it began operations in the country. The continued expansion in Thailand comes despite the possibility that the Thai government may change laws to help smaller family-owned shops compete with foreign supermarket chains.

Mr Raycraft said the Sars outbreak in Asia has so far had a limited impact on sales.

Tesco yesterday announced in the UK that it would offer its 200,000 staff the chance to learn new computer skills at their store. Training computers will be installed in all 780 Tesco stores from this week offering learning opportunities to all employees. The company is also opening a learning centre in Milton Keynes offering longer courses on subjects including maths and English as a foreign language.